The Changing Face Of 29"ers

There has been a fundamental shift in the direction of the 29″er “movement” and it won’t be long before the whole thing is unrecognizable from the 26″er world. Sound crazy? Well, check out the landscape.

Up until 2007, the 29″er market place was dominated by hard tails and most of those were custom built steel frames. Even alot of the mass produced frame sets were steel hard tails, like On One, Surly, and Kona’s amongst many others. Now their has been a shift to aluminum frame sets sporting geared set ups and even more changes are on the horizon.

With the advent of Panaracers Rampage and Kenda’s Nevegal tires the longer travel trail bike is a viable product. What’s more, an as yet unnamed 2.7 inch tire is just around the corner. With something this big becoming available, it’s obvious that an All Mountain/ Free ride/ Down hill segment for 29″ers is being pursued. A viable fork exists in the White Brothers line up, but if another of the “big” fork makers steps up and builds a 6-7 inch travel 29″er fork, it’ll be a done deal.

What this means is that the 29″er isn’t a niche anymore and in fact, it’s headed down the same road of factionalism that 26″ers have gone down years ago now. Is this a bad thing? Well, it probably means that we are being assimilated into the larger mountain biking community.

Folks that ride 29″ers with that badge of “I’m different” will have to look elsewhere for their next fix. 29″ers are mainstream now, not odd as they were just a few years ago. Maybe the 650B bike will satisfy their urges, or perhaps a 36″er, who knows.

As for me, (and I suspect alot of you too) I am happy that I have a mountain bike that actually works better for me that has plenty of choices relative to it’s specific needs. Tires, forks, and wheels are now coming, or are already here that make it easy to dial in my ride for any situation I can think of. Assimilation has it’s benefits. Better choices exist and are coming. I don’t mind a bit that 29″ers are not “wierd” anymore.

Change is good. Learn to embrace the change. It’ll be a big benefit to alot of riders out there.


No Responses to “The Changing Face Of 29"ers”

  1. brant Says:

    What do you mean by “longer travel trail bike”?

    Do you mean full suspension???

  2. Bill R. Says:

    I have to say that I agree with the “concept” or underlying theme of this article. As of late, I’ve noticed a HUGE shift among local riders in the UP…even though I still get the questions, there are now many more riders that have moved from inquiry to action and actually purchased or built a 29er. The market will soon be flooded. This is a good and a bad thing.

    I also have to admit that I’m a little bummed about the mainstream adoption of the 29er concept by larger manufacturers. I like to think that my bike is unique and quirky. I also liked the feeling that I’m riding a secret. I think I like the attention. SHHH, don’t tell. However, more 29er product might (and probably will) translate into positive R&D. I’m a fan of having more options (tires, wheels, frames, etc.) 29er products will get better…and worse depending on your vantage point.

    Options are good. Evolution is good. There might just be some growing pains along the way. Just think, 5 years from now there might even be a “rebel” website:

  3. Cloxxki Says:

    Does this mean the brake stutter bumps at the local trail will become longer to match my wheels? I like them more the way they are!

    If you dislike 29″ being mainstream, come to Europe. Last race I attended I saw no other 29″er (~600 riders show up), 2 were there in an earlier class I heard later on. In Germany you’ll see zero 29″ bikes. Gary Fisher doesn’t even import them there, go figure.

  4. wolfy Says:

    “until neither the [26ers] nor the [29ers] knew
    whether this one was that one or that one was this one
    or which one was what one… or what one was who.”


  5. George Krpan Says:

    Well spoken, Ted. It’s all so true. Have had the same thoughts myself. Leave to to you to express it in such a eloquent way.
    I can see the aluminum, dual suspension, 5 inch travel bike for $1000 on it’s way.
    Not nearly as romantic as the steel hardtail. Perhaps the emphasis of this forum will move away from it’s focus on 29 inch wheels to “retro” riding.

  6. blackbean Says:

    ‘…Folks that ride 29″ers with that badge of “I’m differentâ€? will have to look elsewhere for their next fix…’ I guess the insecure attention-needers will have to find something new. Even if a billion other people started riding the same 29er as I do, it would not bug me at all. Then at least I can’t use the excuse that they have a better bike than me when I can’t clean rock gardens that they do. This is good – bring on more choices.

  7. Marcum Says:

    Maybe as a rider of an Al -geared 29er, I’m one of those newer converts you resist. My choice of bikes was for purely technical reasons, not to be different. As an amateur racer, I was looking for something fast for XC, marathon and endurance rides; hard-tail 29 accomplishes what I hoped 26 FS would do to our upper midwest singletrack without the pogo stick.

    I don’t see the mainstream manufacturers recent clamour for the 29er market as the end of 26; rather an acknowledgement that the 29er market is large enough to be profitable. There are technical reasons why a 29er might not be the perfect choice for EVERY rider; I see it simply as more choices. If the market cannot bear frames from the biggies, they’ll get out soon enough.

  8. name:este Says:

    I went on a ride today with a friend that was using my old DB Overdrive with Nano’s and a 50mm Manitou 700c fork on it. The frame/fork has been around since 1991 and in it’s current form running Nanoraptors since 1999. 21 spd drivetrain with Thumbies, V brakes, etc., generally what would be considered to be a real piece of crap by most out there in bikeland. I was riding first year Supercal circa 2001 with a full XT groupo and some Renegades, but still pretty much a hooptie. We rode some pretty gnarly trail, some less gnarly trails, some dirt roads and some pavement. We left the house together and returned together and had fun. It was my friends first ride on a 29″er and he thought it bounced over stuff pretty good (his words at one point). We saw others out on the trail on all different types of bikes and they all had grins on their faces too.

    So no matter how much choice there is now or in the future or who makes it it really is only icing on a very sweet cake that has been available for consumption for a long time now.

  9. Oderus Says:

    It will be funny to read in 15 years how 26″ mtn bikes are collector’s items. How the folks that ride a 26″ bike will have their own quirky badge is funny to me. I thinks it’s a good thing. More variety and options never hurt anyone. Besides, it’s not the bike that makes you different, it’s your riding. The uniform doesn’t make the man, the man makes the uniform.

  10. Bill R. Says:

    WOW…folks, I was just kidding about being noticed and trying to be different by riding a 29er. Truly, I ride the 29er becuase it provides better ride characteristics than any 26er I ever owned. It does feel different. Better. I feel that it makes my riding experience different. Better.

    I think it’s cool that other folks are finding their way to the 29er. I also think it’s great that a lot of riders are sticking with the 26er…what works for them.

    I also agree that the burgeoning production of 29ers has as some of its impetus the almighty dollar. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t merit to the performance attributes of the bigger wheel. It’s cool that we’ve all been fortunate enough to have access to a website like this to help us be informed consumers along the way.

    The more the merrier. Different…like everyone else. 😉

  11. Mac (aka Farley) Says:

    I have wondered for a while when and if 29ers will become “mainstream.” Around my stomping grounds they’re certainly becoming common enough that they no longer draw many comments or questions, so that’s evidence that we’re headed in that direction. The true test, though, will be when the companies producing them no longer feel it necessary to worker “29” into the model name in some way. (i.e. the “Dambala 29”, becomes simply the “Dambala,” the “XXIX” becomes the “Flying Weasel” or some such)

  12. Steve Says:

    “…Just think, 5 years from now there might even be a “rebelâ€? website: ..”

    G’day Bill,

    There already is a mtb forum here in Oz called Does that count?

  13. Guitar Ted Says:

    Mac (aka Farley): “Flying Weasel”? I want one! That’s an awesome name! Kinda like “Karate Monkey”. Good one there, I like it. 🙂

  14. Onespd-oneway Says:

    I think when 29ers become mainstream, the “odd man out” will ride a municycle! Yes, Cloxxi, with a big wheel. Only clowns ride small wheel unicycle, right?

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